Intrepid guitarist Adam De Lucia seeks to create electronic accompaniment that sounds downright human – and he largely succeeds on Hypnotist.
Along the way, he’s watched in wonder as a student with both Israeli guitar alchemist Oz Noy and former Tal Farlow sideman Doug Clarke. But De Lucia’s aspirations have always gone beyond just mastering his own instrument. His aim is to change the way people think about MIDI backing sounds, to become so proficient at programming that it has the feel of a full band.
“The Far Groove,” the opening track here, quickly becomes a dramatic display of his dizzying proficiency at both. De Lucia opens with a mathematical combining of guitars, as he double tracks a a bass and an electric before settling into a single riffing, jazz-influenced cadence. When the second guitar returns, it’s with a soaring fury as “The Far Groove” moves briefly from the angular intrigue of improvised music to the anthematic power of rock. As De Lucia then circles back around to the track’s opening statement – playing with a precise, smartly constructed intellect – his computerized drumming is put to a stress test, and it passes with flying colors.
De Lucia is then joined by electric bassist Chris Tarry – a multiple Juno Award honoree – for the subsequent “Cycle Plus One,” which swerves into lilting smooth-jazz feel. De Lucia works in a smart counterpoint, moving from precise picking to far-out fusion, and then back again before Tarry takes a ruminative solo. The addition of a sample of Narada Michael Walden’s “Cosmic Strut” only adds to the track’s space-age mystery, though this is perhaps the one track where his drum samples feel somewhat metronomic at times.
“The Dream” returns to the progressive-rock feel of the opening track on this project. De Lucia augments his own oblique guitar shapes with a fast-paced keyboard signature and this intriguing series of fast-moving rhythmic shifts, again so perceptively applied as to sound like a live band. His tandem-guitar construction also powers the later “Caution (Rise of the Tyrant),” though De Lucia’s solo turn is far more searching and introspective. Michael Ghegan joins in the proceedings for the latter song, adding deft counterpoint on keyboard. (Up next for De Lucia is a separate studio project called Robot Sex Machine with Ghegan, who has worked with Elton John, the Allman Brothers Band and Justin Timberlake.)
Meanwhile, after establishing himself so completely in the fusion and prog realm, De Lucia’s excursion into rib-sticking soul on “96 Heart Beats Per Minute” couldn’t be more of a surprise. His keyboard work here boasts the street-corner wisdom of turn-of-the-1970s Steve Wonder, even as unleashes some of his most heartfelt solo work on guitar. Hypnotist approaches that kind of funky fun again on the intro to “The Theme (Virtue),” though the track ultimately has more in common with Pat Metheny’s modern jazz than with old-school R&B.
“Hip Flop (Take 1)” finds De Lucia engaging in a searching, deeply heartfelt exploration of his guitar, set against a titanic, Black Keys-ish backbeat. He moves, in a moment of breathless guitar invention, from the crisp feel of bluegrass to the jazz-rock inventiveness of Steely Dan.
“Take 2,” as with its predecessor, was mastered at Carriage House Studios – a legendary Connecticut recording facility where artists as diverse as Diana Ross, Ronnie James Dio, Johnny Winter, Spyro Gyra and the Deftones have recorded. Clearly, some of that sense of adventure rubbed off – as De Lucia approaches his second solo for “Hip Flop” from a completely new angle. There’s a sharper edge this time, a new sense of purpose, more in keeping with the furious tension of Jeff Beck.
De Lucia clearly has the goods as a guitarist. Now, would it have been easier for him to construct a group of actual rhythmists to showcase these finely constructed musical thoughts? Probably. But it wouldn’t have been nearly the adventure, and that – as much as anything – seems to be De Lucia’s biggest thrill.
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